The best covers of Bob Dylan songs
Gai Terrell/Redferns

The best covers of Bob Dylan songs

Bob Dylan's catalog is so extensive that it's almost an intimidating challenge to just sift through it. Trying to cover any of Dylan's songs is even more daunting. Many have tried, and some even came out shining on the other end.

Here's a look at those covers of Bob Dylan tracks that stand out.

 
1 of 20

"Blowin’ in the Wind," Peter, Paul and Mary (1963)

"Blowin’ in the Wind," Peter, Paul and Mary (1963)
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This has been one Bob Dylan song that's become a popular cover. Many have offered, but the best perhaps is still from this legendary folk trio. Released three weeks after Dylan put his original version out, Peter, Paul, and Mary, who were under the same management as the legendary singer-songwriter, made it to No. 2 on the Billboard chart with its rendition of one of the greatest protest songs of all time.

 
2 of 20

"Farewell, Angelina," Joan Baez (1965)

"Farewell, Angelina," Joan Baez (1965)
Tom Marvin/Akron Beacon Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

From the album of the same name, Baez enjoyed both critical and commercial success with this cover. Baez, known for her quality covers, offered her own folk feel to the song, yet it also showcased a hint of pop that allowed her to enjoy more mainstream success. Her version is also significantly shorter than the one Dylan recorded in 1965 but did not officially release until the early 1990s.

 
3 of 20

"It Ain’t Me Babe," Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash (1965)

"It Ain’t Me Babe," Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash (1965)
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The mutual respect between Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash was quite special. Dylan's version originally came out in 1964 on his release Another Side of Bob Dylan. One year later, Cash and June Carter put out their rendition on his Orange Blossom Special record. The song was another hit for Cash, showing the musical chemistry he had with his future wife. It was also featured in the 2005 hit Cash-biopic Walk the Line.

 
4 of 20

"Mr. Tambourine Man," The Byrds (1965)

"Mr. Tambourine Man," The Byrds (1965)
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Released weeks after Dylan's original, and longer, version. Yet, "Mr. Tambourine Man" might be the song The Byrds are best known for during the group's stellar career. The Byrds' rendition went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart and gained the band international popularity. The group's version offered a more pop sound that was made for radio and remains a classic song -- defining the music and attitude of the 1960s.

 
5 of 20

"All Along The Watchtower," Jimi Hendrix (1968)

"All Along The Watchtower," Jimi Hendrix (1968)
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Critics and hardcore Dylan fans often regard Hendrix's version of this rock classic as arguably the best cover of any track in the folk legend's catalog. In fact, even among Hendrix's stable of memorable and beloved tunes, his take on "All Along the Watchtower" is widely regarded as some of his -- and the band's -- best work. It's certainly another expectational guitar performance for the legendary entertainer

 
6 of 20

"I Shall Be Released," The Band (1968)

"I Shall Be Released," The Band (1968)
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There are times when a cover is released prior to the singer-songwriter putting out his or her original version. That's the case here with The Band, a legendary outfit itself, releasing its rendition three years before Dylan recorded and unleashed his own. That said, many critics believe The Band's take is more memorable, perhaps because it came first and is consistently associated with that act. Now, having Dylan (along with Ringo Starr and Ronnie Wood) join The Band performing during The Last Waltz only added to the song's legacy.

 
7 of 20

“The Mighty Quinn," Manfred Mann (1968)

“The Mighty Quinn," Manfred Mann (1968)
Manfred Mann

These English rockers enjoyed much success during the 1960s and '70s (as Manfred Mann's Earth Band) through their cover songs. This was another example, found on the group's fifth and final studio album Mighty Gravy! Another one of Dylan's beloved story songs, too. This time about an Eskimo, who riles up a group of animals. The song has been covered by many over the years, but Manfred Mann's version is worthy of consistent praise.

 
8 of 20

"If Not for You," Olivia Newton-John (1971)

"If Not for You," Olivia Newton-John (1971)
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Dylan recorded this tune with former Beatle George Harrison. Making for one of the better collaborations of all time. That said, Olivia Newton-John enjoyed some massive international success with her country-pop version of the track. Her rendition landed in the top 10 in the United Kingdom and was a top-25 hit in the United States. Actually, this version might be more recognized than the original.

 
9 of 20

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door," Guns N' Roses (1987)

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door," Guns N' Roses (1987)
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This was a favorite cover of the band in the early days of Welcome to the Jungle and became a staple of Guns N' Roses live sets going forward. Then, a widely popular studio version was included on Use Your Illusion II. Also, one of the more memorable moments during 1992's Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert was G N' R's version of this song -- with a little reggae added in for fun. 

 
10 of 20

"Masters of War," Eddie Vedder, w/ Mike McCready (1992)

"Masters of War," Eddie Vedder, w/ Mike McCready (1992)
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Dylan's anti-Cold War track has been a Pearl Jam cover favorite almost immediately upon singer Eddie Vedder joining the band prior to the grunge explosion of the early 1990s. This particular offering that we'll showcase dates to when Vedder, accompanied by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, took part in The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration -- honoring Dylan's first 30 years as a recording artist. 

 
11 of 20

"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," Tom Petty (1992)

"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," Tom Petty (1992)
Michelle Pemberton/Indianapolis Star/USA TODAY

Another rendition from The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration. The truth is, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had been covering one of Dylan's most beloved songs in concert since the mid-1980s. Always a crowd favorite, Petty's take is a little faster but still as joyous as the original. And, another chance for the fans to shout "everybody must get stoned." On this particular night, fellow music legends Booker T. Jones and Donald "Duck" Dunn jammed along with Petty and Co.

 
12 of 20

"Just Like A Woman," Jeff Buckley (1993)

"Just Like A Woman," Jeff Buckley (1993)
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Jeff Buckley could do no wrong, whether recording covers or his own songs. One of his better offerings is a version of this Blonde On Blonde classic. It was part of his Live at Sin-é record. It's also an example of Buckley's talent on the guitar. Yet, Buckley's soulful, angelic voice is at the forefront and a gentle reminder of life taken much too early. What could have been?

 
13 of 20

“Every Grain of Sand," Emmylou Harris (1995)

“Every Grain of Sand," Emmylou Harris (1995)
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Harris' special version of this underrated Dylan classic from the early 1980s was included on her Wrecking Ball album in the '90s. She, along with Sheryl Crow, also played the song at the funeral of friend and legend Johnny Cash. Harris' take doesn't veer too much from the spirit of Dylan's original. Which makes it one cover we can listen to over and over again without tiring.

 
14 of 20

"Like A Rolling Stone," Rolling Stones (1995)

"Like A Rolling Stone," Rolling Stones (1995)
Michael Chow/Arizona Republic via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

If there was ever a band to cover one of Dylan's most popular songs, it only makes sense the Rolling Stones would be the one to do it. From the band's Stripped record, the Stones deliver an above-average performance of a tune they were seemingly meant to sing. Full disclosure: There have been plenty of strong covers of "Like A Rolling Stone," but we can't have a list like this list without the Stones doing a song with their own name in it.

 
15 of 20

"Tangled Up in Blue," Indigo Girls (1995)

"Tangled Up in Blue," Indigo Girls (1995)
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"Tangled Up in Blue" is one song even the most casual Dylan fans, or rock followers for that matter, can recognize. The Indigo Girls have put out some notable covers during its day, and this might be at the top of the list. This version was featured on the duo's 1995 live offering 1200 Curfews, but Amy Ray and Emily Saliers had been paying homage to one of their musical idols by playing the song in concert for years prior.

 
16 of 20

"Maggie’s Farm," Rage Against The Machine (2000)

"Maggie’s Farm," Rage Against The Machine (2000)
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One of Dylan's most notable blues tracks. Rage, however, turned it up to offer a heavy, thunderous approach that was one of the highlights of the band's 2000 album of covers, Renegades. This cover features some of Tom Morello's best guitar work while offering that signature Rage sound . The RATM version was also featured at the end of the 2010 Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg comedy hit The Other Guys.

 
17 of 20

"Isis," The White Stripes (2001)

"Isis," The White Stripes (2001)
Chip Somodevilla/Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

"Isis" was a ballad from his 1976 Desire record, another No. 1 album for Dylan. Jack White kicked up the distortion when it came time to cover the song during the early 2000s. Critics have used words such as "fierce" and "blistering" to describe The White Stripes' version, which reportedly turned Dylan into a big fan of the band. That might not have been the point of the cover, but it was a nice reward.

 
18 of 20

"One More Cup of Coffee," Robert Plant (2002)

"One More Cup of Coffee," Robert Plant (2002)
Shelley Mays/The Tennessean, via Imagn Content Services, LLC/USA TODAY

Another great track from Dylan's Desire LP. Dylan teamed with the aforementioned Emmylou Harris for a duet on this track. Plant's version, meanwhile, is all him as featured on his cover-heavy Dreamland album. Plant's rendition harkens back to some of Led Zeppelin's more stripped-down work, where the legendary frontman was able to show off his vocal talent. 

 
19 of 20

"Make You Feel My Love," Adele (2008)

"Make You Feel My Love," Adele (2008)
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports

This is one of Dylan's most recent tracks. Recent in the fact that it was released on 1997's Time Out of Mind record. It was more than a decade later that Adele would give it a go on her smash debut album 19 -- and she did not disappoint. Another song that seemed particularly fitting and vocally appropriate for the cover artist. It proved to be a top-30 hit for Adele, who used this song to help introduce the world to her immense talent.

 
20 of 20

"You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," Miley Cyrus (2012)

"You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," Miley Cyrus (2012)
Robert Hanashiro/USAT/USA TODAY

Cyrus lent her talents to the Bob Dylan catalog via the charity project Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. Say what one will about Cyrus, but she should be lauded for her appreciation of music history. Thanks to her father, Miley has long honored legends from rock, country, and folk. This is a well-delivered take that earned Cyrus (with help from Johnzo West) plenty of attention and praise.

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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